» Grading the 49ers


The Niners’ ground game lacked any kind of positive impact in the first half. Frank Gore ran 11 times for 29 yards, and LaMichael James fumbled one of his two carries. But Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick engaged the thrusters after halftime. Gore rushed for 81 yards and Kaepernick added 46 yards, with each of them scoring a touchdown.


Kaepernick completed 16 of his 28 throws for 302 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Decent numbers. But with the ball on Baltimore’s 5-yard line and down by five points inside the two-minute warning, Kaepernick threw three straight incomplete passes. Vernon Davis was a mystery for the Ravens’ defense almost all night, catching six passes for 104 yards. Michael Crabtree had 84 yards in the second half.


San Francisco’s magnificent front seven negated the NFL’s 11th-ranked rushing offense. Ray Rice ran 20 times for only 59 yards. Bernard Pierce had 12 attempts for 33 yards. Patrick Willis was a force, with a game-high 10 tackles. NaVorro Bowman had nine tackles, including two for losses.


Niners cornerback Chris Culliver had an awful week after making homophobic comments and followed that up with a lousy Sunday night. Baltimore picked on him all night. He got turned around on some long gains. Former Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner was late in coverage on Anquan Boldin’s opening touchdown. The Niners registered seven quarterback hits, but only two pass breakups.


The Niners gave up the longest kickoff return in postseason history, but they made some big plays, too. David Akers made all three of his field goal attempts. A 32-yard Ted Ginn punt return helped the Niners maintain momentum during a breathless third-quarter stretch in which they outscored the Ravens, 17-0. Delanie Walker tattooed Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones with a colossal hit.


Whatever adjustments Jim Harbaugh failed to make at the start of the second half, perhaps he came through during the 34-minute delay to restore the Superdome’s power. The Niners trailed by 22 early in the third quarter, but they were dogged in chasing the Ravens down. Play-calling on a first-and-goal set of downs with the game on the line was questionable. Kaepernick didn’t run once.

» Grading the Ravens


Rice and Pierce weren’t factors, averaging a combined 2.9 yards a carry. Only six of Baltimore’s 21 first downs were on the ground. When Baltimore needed to convert a crucial third-and-a-foot play in the fourth quarter, Joe Flacco threw a pass to Boldin. Of the Ravens’ 10 longest plays from scrimmage, only one of them was a run.


MVP Flacco was mostly brilliant, completing 67 percent of his passes for 287 yards and no interceptions. By halftime, he had thrown his three touchdown passes, and seven Ravens had at least one catch. Boldin and Jacoby Jones made deep plays look easy. Jones fell down on, went untouched and got up to finish off a 56-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Niners sacked Flacco only twice. Rice fumbled on a pass play.


The Ravens lost star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a knee injury in the third quarter. Ngata’s absence was trouble for the NFL’s 20th-rated run defense. Gore averaged 2.6 yards in the first half, but averaged 10.1 in the second half. The Ravens also had trouble deciphering Kaepernick, who ran for 62 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown, the longest by a quarterback in Super Bowl history.


Crabtree and Davis gave the Ravens fits. They combined for 11 receptions and 213 yards with a touchdown. But the Ravens allowed only five receptions to two other targets. On throws that didn’t go to Crabtree or Davis, the Niners completed only five of 10 throws for 89 yards. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger had two sacks in the first half. Turner-Carroll grad Corey Graham had six tackles and two pass breakups.


Jones broke an NFL postseason record with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, but there were gaffes. Justin Tucker botched a fake field-goal attempt in the second quarter. The Ravens failed to contain Ginn on a 32-yard punt return that set up a touchdown. Chykie Brown ran into Akers on a missed 39-yard attempt, allowing Akers to drill the second chance.


John Harbaugh won the Lombardi Trophy, but let his brother’s team back in the game. John Harbaugh’s decision to fake a field-goal attempt backfired. The Ravens forfeited three points because Tucker’s run fell a yard short of the first-down marker. He also decided to punt on fourth-and-1 from his own 44 in the third quarter, resulting in a touchback and an eventual touchdown.